aside from animation, the static presentation provided in the preview itself is generally more than enough to give a general critique or a worthy opinion in most cases. if not for the preview we would have nothing to like or dislike in order to merit our download in the first place other than a name, and if we shouldn’t comment or rate in any circumstance based upon the preview, what reason do we have to download it either? use the preview to judge what see and think you’ll like, then download it to see if you do? that sounds... intelligent. what you download is going to look exactly like what it did in the preview unless whoever made the preview image is a moron.
if there is more to the work than the work itself, and it needs other elements or to be in certain environments in order to be appreciated as the author intended, it's up to the person who designed it to showcase it in that way so it will be seen in this way; otherwise just downloading it and applying the skin is likely to do very little in the way of judging it on criteria the author wants it to be taken into account with, and your “preview rating” is going to differ from the “i just wasted my time while increasing their download count rating” very little. if something only truly shines when it's got a dark background behind it, don't expect the end user to intently put a dark background on it if you're not displaying it in the way it's meant to be used. your preview is far more important than what people take into account.
no one buys a can without a label, you can't tell someone “you won't know if you’ll like some form of food unless they try it” when they're already gagging just from the smell alone, and as much as people like to say "don't judge a book by its cover" we are forced to. only a fool would pick books to read without looking at so much as the title, and none of us have time enough to read every book in existence, even if we lived forever there would be more material coming out faster than we can read through it.
it would be wrong for a professor to grade the content of a paper without reading it, but if they asked for your paper to be typed in MLA format, double spaced with 12 point particular typeface and you hand them 10 pages of something handwritten in red ink without any formatting at all, you'd have to be an absolute fool to expect they will waste their time reading something that was a failure long before you ripped it out of your spiral bound notebook.
there's also a great difference in saying something "looks awesome, or looks horrid" and "this works beautifully, or works about as well as an unplugged tv". you can judge static appearance at a glance, while functionality needs some testing, but everything is tested to see that it works before being approved in the first place, so why i need to see if something works for myself rather than seeing if it's “worth working” in the first place is a concept that is amiss to me. for the most part i expect anything i see to work already aside from possible minor bugs, and i’m not going to make any significant change in opinion for insignificant things. if other people would let a typo or a stray pixel turn their appreciation into detest then that’s their business and i’m not going to fault them for being fickle and nonsensical. whether or not the skin even works is not an obligation to the end user to test, it’s the responsibility of the author to make it work, and the moderator to make sure it does.
works available in here come in basically 3 flavors, visual, technical, and both. since everything is supposed to be "tested" to work before approval, we should be able to expect they already work, and opinions shouldn't need to stretch far beyond the visuals if that is truthfully the case. i'm sorry to say this to the people that dislike my mentality, but i can say a poster looks like shit or looks great long before i buy it and hang it on my wall. i should only be expected to download something before i can accurately rate or state my opinions when and ONLY when the author has been a colossal failure at making display of their work.
something to learn as far as comments go is that it doesn't matter in large what is said, it matters who says it. if their words don't hold any weight, neither will what those words mean regardless of the message. the same concept goes into ratings, and the people who say "this is ugly, i don't like text, green is eww" and rate the skin a 1 are in the majority of people who systematically have a rating pull that is equivalently as insignificant as their silly opinion, while the people who have proven a form of worth will hold much more weight and be trusted to judge in a manner that represents a better understanding in what criteria they cover, and why they are rating something in concern to it in the first place. concensus view works nicely when there is appropriate balance.
i encourage feedback from any user, for any reason, even down to the most petty of preferences. the comments regarding accomplishments are for us authors while the comments on functionality are for both authors and users. users take note of comments like "this doesn't work with _____" but totally look over "zomgzors this looks amazing" comments; we all have eyes and the users can judge that part for themselves. the ratings however are simply for the benefit of the users, not the authors or their ego. every time an author complains about the rating of their skin it's because of their ego, and people have the right to rate for any reason at all so long as it is pertaining to the skin rather than being personal.
how well it's put together, how useful or practical it is, whether or not it looks like garbage or is in good taste.
an issue people rather often overlook isn't just the comments and ratings given by people, but who the comments and ratings are received by. typical joe or some new blood can put up a masterpiece and get zero or negative feedback with a ho hum rating to boot, but plenty of "familiars" with brainless back patters following them around (formally known as ass kissers) can upload complete trash and get instant gratification in their comments and ratings, and any negative feedback or low ratings get quickly shunned. it’s pathetic, and a bigger load of crap than judging by preview could ever be conceivably accused of.
also, if people just skipped over what they don't like and didn't rate/comment truthfully and responsibly, every skin would have 5 stars, every comment would say "great work", and we'd turn into a bunch of oversensitive intolerant idiots who would rather be completely blind and intently ignorant, than to take off our rose colored glasses, there are enough people like this already, no need to increase the numbers of them.
and it's human nature to only take an action of any sort when they feel strongly about something in one way or another. people say i love/i hate, i like/i dislike, and it’s that simple. they don't run about saying "oh wow this skin is amazingly mediocre, you did an absolute decent and ok job, 3 stars my friend!!".
i comment/rate dreams without ever using them as an animated wallpaper, and why shouldn't i? i can see the animation and say "well done" or "that's impressive" without having icons and other shit covering up the very thing i'm supposed to be critiquing. i can tell if icons will be hard to see, or if a wall is too busy, or if the quality in something has been compromised without doing a 10 point inspection. if other people lack such a simple ability it's not of my concern. of course i will be able to give a more accurate rendition if i scrutinize every detail but why should i, comments and ratings aren’t about obligation they’re about inspiration? why should i look at a preview that i think looks like shit and then force myself to download and then install it just to say "ok, it still looks like shit, the exact same shit in fact"; are skins supposed to be less shitty when you download them or vice versa? is a blurry mess or some pixelated trash going to improve when i use it? if so, maybe an update to the damn preview is in order don’t you think?
also as much as people value how many downloads they have, and considering how many people search for things or credit their worth based on downloads, how does it help to have stuff that has 1 million downloads, but then has 1 million 1 star ratings and 1 millions comments saying this is the biggest piece of garbage i've ever encountered. so the worst authors end up being top authors in the hall of fame because we had to make extra super special sure they were indeed producing crap, good concept to follow though. when people post threads in the forums to mark milestones in their downloads should i postpone my congratulations in order to first tell them “people just download your crap to make sure it was the same crap in your preview and find out it was just as crappy as they already knew it was”?
people judge books by covers, so what do book writers do? they stop making shitty and obscure covers and provide accurate renditions and summaries, and when they don't accurately portray something or try to dress it up or hide their faults they end up being called out on it pretty quickly in most any case, just as it happens here.
yes i often enough rate and comment without being a damn beta tester of the skin/icon/wallpaper for 2 weeks, but my opinions and reasons are not unfounded, i don’t do voice them lightly, and i stand behind and back up every decision i make.
you want my opinion? i think i’m more qualified to critique based on the thumbnail of the preview image than most people are after downloading and using it, and i doubt i’m the only one with such an opinion. “most people” will download and praise anything so long as they like the concept (oh sweet, i love goth!), materials (zomg it’s spiderman!!1 (and probably a ripped spiderman at that)) or the artist (hells yeah trendwhore8301 you always make the best stuffs), all the while completely overlooking the content, work, and functionality.
i’m fine with being an elitist prick if that makes me one.